WICHITA, KS — Winning is a hell of an aphrodisiac and can briefly cure a lot of ills for a struggling team.
After a week of brutal, tense practices, the headed into Wednesday night’s contest against the Indy Fuel looking for something that has avoided them all month, a win in regulation.
The Thunder came into the mid-week matchup shorthanded, as Theo Peckham served the first of a two-game suspension for foolishly cross-checking Missouri goaltender late in Saturday night’s contest and Dalton Reum is on the 21-day injured reserve list. Making their debuts with the squad was forward Paxton Leroux (lower body) and defenseman Daniel Johnston (reserve).
It was the first matchup between Wichita and a team from Indianapolis since March 2004, when the Indianapolis Ice existed. In that affair, the Ice beat Wichita.
The Thunder came out and dominated the play early and often in this game. Brandon Martell opened the scoring at 1:52 of the first period, when he deposited a rebound behind Mac Carruth to give Wichita a 1-0 lead. After the goal, Wichita began imposing their will physically on the Fuel, something that Scott Hillman coached teams have struggled with when playing Wichita.
Wichita continued their heavy game in the second period, and it paid off when the duo of Paxton Leroux and Erick Lizon forced a turnover in the Fuel zone, the puck found Kenton Miller, who took a puck from below the goal line and wristed it past Carruth to give the Thunder a 2-0 lead at 11:57 of the period.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Thunder power play had struggled, mightily. In two previous chances in the game, the Thunder looked to be getting decent puck movement and opportunities. The hard work paid off when Danick Gauthier scored on the man-advantage at 13:11 of the second to give Wichita a 3-1 lead. It was Wichita’s first power-play goal in ten games.
Wichita kept the pressure on Indy in the third, holding them shotless through the first 9:30 of the period. Fuel Head Coach Scott Hillman tried to fire his team up, when he pulled Carruth on a power-play with 6:26 left. The Fuel’s Garett Bembridge spoiled David Shantz’s shutout bid and seem to give the team a brief burst of momentum, that was until Andy Huff showed some fancy stickwork to beat Carruth once again to give Wichita a 4-1 lead.
Moments later, Gauthier picked up his second of the night to seal the deal for the Thunder, 5-1.
Wichita now got their first win in regulation this month, snapped a four-game losing streak and for the night, managed to reclaim third in the Central Division. The Thunder will travel to Tulsa for the start of a home-and-home series Friday night.